Dwight Howard blasts teammates for lack of effort after blowout loss to Hornets

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The wheels are starting to come off in Orlando.

Just one night after blowing a 27-point lead at home in a loss to the Celtics, the Magic pulled a complete no-show in New Orleans, and were blown out 93-67 by a Hornets team that entered the game just 3-15 on the season.

That effort (or rather, lack thereof) didn’t sit well with Dwight Howard, as he explained to reporters afterward (via the Orlando Sentinel):

“Looked like guys didn’t want to play,” he said. “I told them at halftime, if you don’t want to play, just stay in the lockerroom. It doesn’t make sense for a teams we should beat to just demolish us.

“You bring everything down,” Howard said, referring to a player who isn’t playing with heart and soul.

“It hurts me to get out there and play your hardest. I expect everybody to play the same. I’m not calling anybody out by no means because we all have to get better … but if you don’t want to be out there, don’t dress up.

“If you don’t want to play, stay home. People work too hard. I want to win a championship. I work too hard every night for anybody to not want to go out there and play hard. … None of the — whatever, trade stuff — none of that stuff matters. Play basketball. That’s why we all get paid to do this, because we love the game and it’s basketball, so why not give it your all.”

The “trade stuff,” as Howard put it — referring to his impending free agency this summer and the fact that the team has already explored options to deal him earlier this season — absolutely matters. If his teammates know Howard doesn’t want to be there long-term, and that the team may be blown up at any point this season to make that happen, it matters. It’s a distraction, and it’s not going to go away until the season is over, or until a deal gets done.

But Howard’s right — it is fairly ridiculous for any players at this level not to compete on a nightly basis, and a hangover from giving away the game against Boston the previous night is no excuse. Being the team’s best player, he has every right to call out the collective for not bringing the effort.

The only problem is, with Howard’s eventual departure being a likely matter of when and not if, his teammates probably aren’t listening.

Rumor: Patrick Beverley may meet with five teams before Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers want to bring Patrick Beverley back next season, his spark was at the heart of why this team made the playoffs and impressed with their potential.

First, however, the Clippers are going big game hunting for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and/or Kevin Durant (even with the Achilles injury). Beverley isn’t just going to sit around and wait for them, reports longtime NBA reporter Sean Deveney Tweeted.

The Bulls need a point guard and Beverley — a Chicago native — has said he is interested.

The Lakers also are reportedly big game hunting, but Beverley is the kind of guard they could use around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Phoenix and other teams have been mentioned.

Beverley is going to have options, but he loved his time with the Clippers last season, and that means something.

Pelicans reportedly pick up option year on coach Alvin Gentry

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David Griffin, the guy with the hammer in New Orleans, likes Alvin Gentry. They have a relationship that goes back to Phoenix, where Gentry was the coach and Griffin was in the front office (and was eventually GM).

Gentry also has a style of play — he wants to run and be up-tempo. That should fit very well with soon-to-be No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise the Griffin and the Pelicans want to keep Gentry around, as reported by Malika Andrews of ESPN.

This is another smart, stabilizing move by Griffin. The Pelicans want to build an athletic, fast-paced team and Gentry is the right coach for that style.  Maybe it doesn’t pan out, maybe the Pelicans ultimately need to go another direction with their coach, but right now this seems a good fit.

Report: Utah “frontrunner” to land Mike Conley Jr. if Memphis trades him this week

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Utah feels like it is close — a 50-win team two seasons in a row, an elite defense, an All-NBA center in Rudy Gobert and an elite shot creator in Donovan Michell. They look at the West next season, with a depleted Warriors team, and see an opening.

Yet when Utah fell to Houston 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs this year, it was reminded of what is keeping the team from being truly elite, and another shot creator and shooter is at the top of that list.

Enter Mike Conley Jr. He averaged 21.1 points and 6.4 assists per game last season, shot 36.4 percent from three, and plays strong defense. Conley would be an upgrade over Ricky Rubio at the spot.

The almost All-Star point guard out of Memphis is available via trade. He’s the kind of veteran floor general, shooter, and shot creator Utah could use. The Jazz and Grizzlies talked but couldn’t come to an agreement at the trade deadline, but the sides are talking again and conversations are “intensifying” in the run-up to the NBA Draft Thursday, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Grizzlies are intensifying talks to potentially move franchise cornerstone Mike Conley Jr., league sources told The Athletic. Memphis has been in conversations with the Jazz and Utah is a frontrunner to acquire Conley should the Grizzlies trade the point guard during draft week, league sources said.

What would be in a trade package? Certainly the No. 23 pick in this draft, plus some young players the Grizzlies like (maybe Grayson Allen, Royce O’Neal, and even someone like Jae Crowder. Reports say Derick Favors is not part of the discussion.

While anything can happen the week of the draft — and things change quickly — don’t be surprised if some version of this trade gets done.

Kawhi Leonard wins day with last laugh — his viral laugh — at end of speech

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Kawhi Leonard just won again.

He won his second NBA title leading the Toronto Raptors to the franchise’s first crown. He earned his second Finals MVP in the process.

Then on Monday he had the last laugh and won the Raptors’ championship parade in Toronto by ending his speech with his laugh, the same one that went viral at the start of the season.

Of course, what Leonard will do on July 1 was a cloud hanging over the parade, Leonard is a free agent this summer. Kyle Lowry at one point started a “five more years” chant during the parade, which is the maximum number of years Toronto can re-sign Leonard for.

Leonard, exactly as we all should have expected, dodged the question, while praising his time in Toronto.

Unfortunately, this was a parade marred by more serious concerns.